Friday, December 23, 2016

Some recent Dutchbopper vids


I have been neglecting my Blog this year. No doubt about that. With few gigs and the lack of an inspiring jazz scene in the area, it's been a bit hard to stay motivated for jazz at all, let alone writing about it.

That does not mean that I haven't been active on the guitar of course. There are few days that I do not pick up the guitar. There's the occasional gig with my own vocal jazz outfit. And as you have undoubtedly noticed, I do make some videos too. I have posted a few already this year in various Blog entries but here are a few that I have shared with my Facebook and forum friends only over the last few months. Not all, but just a few that stand out.

In all of them I use backings. I am not that fond of prefab backings, especially not stiff and dull sounding digital ones, but sometimes I find one that is kind of inspiring to jam on. Usually on Youtube.

The take of "Blue Bossa" on top of the page is one of those ... I came across a few "trio" backings, played by real musicians. Some of them were nice and some even very nice. Click here to find the Youtube Channel. Here's another one from that channel: "Alone Together."




Here's a take on "Full House" I did a few months ago. I so love this tune. The backing is a Hal Leonard one. So by real players. I have written on the Hal Leonard series earlier here. It's a very good offering but this particular backing even stands out among all the fine ones. Superb.



And here's a funky take on "Donna Lee." I have recorded the tune several times but never on such a funky backing. Kind of cool though. Errr, I think ... Anyway, you can find it on the Tube.




And what to think of this unusual take on "Road Song." Good bop work out though if you go for 16th notes. Bop till you drop !!!!!




Tuesday, September 27, 2016

A jazz playalong avant la lettre




I love the sound of vintage bebop recordings from the 1950s. Sometimes I put one on and just jam along. If only modern play-alongs did sound that way .... Well, here's one that actually does. Why? Because it was recorded in 1955! This must have been one of the first - if not the very first - jazz playalongs ever recorded, decades before the arrival of the Jamey Aebersold series. We have Billy Bauer on guitar, Tony Aless on piano, Arnold Fishkin on bass and Don Lamond on drums. The sound of the recording and playing style is typically 1950s. I find the overall approach of this playalong superb. Very musical. And what a 1950s bop vibe ...

The tunes are:

1. Easy Walkin' Blues (Bauer) 00:00
2. September In The Rain (Dubin, Warren) 2:52
3. These Foolish Things (Maschwitz, Strachey) 5:50
4. Indiana (Hanley) 9:08
5. Somebody Loves Me (Gershwin) 11:31
6. Out Of Nowhere (Heyman, Green) 14:10
7. Ghost Of A Chance (Young)16:53
8. S'Wonderful (Gershwin) 20:00

Here's what Lennie Tristano wrote in the original liner notes:
"The tunes on this record [...] are played in the keys used by most jazz musicians. You can have a session all by yourself or with your friends any time you wish. Most of all, wether you dig hi, low, or no fi, you ought to get plenty of sheer pleasure out of this record and the idea behind it!"
I most certainly will. I think I'm going to do a take of Donna Lee on "Indiana."

So pick up your horn and blow!



Disclaimer: I did not upload this video. It is not hosted on this site. It was embedded from YouTube. Therefore, this site has no control over the copyright issues of the streaming media. Moreover, in 2014 The Court of Justice of the European Union ruled that embedding copyrighted videos is not copyright infringement. Click here for more info.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Remo Palmier


In one of my first Blog entries I referred to two albums that were important in my transition from pop music to jazz. Watching "The Great Guitars" with Herb Ellis, Barney Kessel and Charlie Byrd on tv in the mid 70s had already sparked my interest but in the early 80s I got my first jazz albums from the Music Library and started taping them on cassette and playing them over and over in my car. It was to take way over a decade however before I picked up the jazz guitar myself ....


One of those first jazz guitar albums that I loved so much was by Remo Palmier. It was his self-titled 1979 Concord Jazz release "Remo Palmier." The swinging was easy and it showcased an endless string of wonderful and mellow jazz guitar sounds. The playing was so pretty and melodic. It blew me away. So I was thrilled to finally find a few clips of it on Youtube. The album has been out of print for ages and is not available on CD AFAIK. Earlier I posted a great track from it in an entry here. But I am happy to be able to post some new clips of that fine album here. Listen to this!






Remo's recorded output as a leader is very limited. He was a studio musician with CBS for over 27 years and was guitarist with the Arthur Godfrey (radio) Show in the 1960s and 1970s. In 1972 Palmier made a modest return to jazz freelancing for a period with his own quartet in various New York clubs. When he recorded "Remo Palmier" in 1978, he had not been recording as a jazz guitarist for over 30 years!



Here's what WIKI tells us about him:
Remo Palmieri hit the New York jazz scene as a teenager in the 1940s and almost immediately found himself playing with some the premier jazz artists of the time. He teamed up first with Coleman Hawkins and then Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker. His talents as a jazz guitarist and musician were in great demand and during this same period he recorded with Teddy Wilson. In 1945 he recorded with Gillespie and Parker and Red Norvo and was awarded a "new star" award from Esquire, Palmieri was one of the first guitarists to extend the ideas of Charlie Christian, but he chose to live the life of a studio musician. In the late 1940s he began performing with Arthur Godfrey on CBS, and taught Godfrey to play the ukulele. He was with CBS and for more than 27 years as he pursued a very successful career as a studio musician. If you listened to the Arthur Godfrey radio show on CBS in the 1960s and early 1970s you heard Remo Palmieri's guitar in the background. He changed his name legally in 1952, omitting the "i" at the end, to Palmier to not be associated with the already famous, Eddie Palmieri.
In 1972 Remo Palmier left the studio when the Godfrey show was canceled and he returned to playing in local nightspots in New York. Then in 1977 his friend Herb Ellis convinced Carl Jefferson to invite Remo Palmier to the Concord Jazz Festival in Concord, California. At that festival Palmier and Ellis teamed up for some duet playing and later that year they made the recording Windflower. That recording marked the end of a 30 plus year hiatus from recording for this talented jazz guitarist. Then in 1979 Concord Jazz produced the first recording on which Remo Palmier was billed as the leader.



Remo was largely self taught. He first started to play the guitar at the age of eleven. He became interested in jazz when he heard some Tommy Dorsey recordings in 1938. He then started to listen to recordings by Django Reinhardt and Charlie Christian. In 1942 he joined painist Nat Jaffe's trio and soon gained a reputation as one of the most developed East Coast jazz guitarists.

After recording "Windflower" with Herb Ellis in 1977 and "Remo Palmier" in 1978, he continued to perform regularly and work as a studio musician. He also taught privately. Remo died in 2002. Here's a final track from "Remo Palmier" for you to check out. A wonderful player.

Friday, June 10, 2016

The Amazing Eef Albers


Here's a guitarist most of you have most likely never heard of. Heck, even over here he is not very well known. Nevertheless, Eef Albers is one of the most prominent musicians in the Netherlands. He has made 4 solo CDs, but is more notably active as a teacher at the Royal Conservatory in the Hague and as a guest musician.

I'd call him a fusion player. Most of his music is in that genre. In his work, Albers uses influences from the blues, rock and jazz, as well as classical music. He's not really a traditional jazz guitarist. I've only found a few clips on Youtube that show him in a straight ahead jazz setting. But man, when Eef starts boppin' out on his Strat, he's up there with the best. Check out his solo on "I'll Remember April", which was recorded at some jazz jam a few years ago.



The second clip that I really dig is from 1988. It features Eef in a big band setting. He's playing "Moment's Notice" with the Metropole Orchestra. Amazing!

















And from the same concert with the Metropole concert in 1988 here's "On a Slow Boat to China."

Saturday, June 4, 2016

The Gibson Barney Kessel

1963 Gibson Barney Kessel Custom
On april 25 I bought my 1963 Gibson Barney Kessel Custom. I had had my eyes on that guitar for a few years - I had played it several times earlier when I was at Charlee Guitars - and after I sold my old Strat, I finally bought it.


The Barney Kessel is a guitar that has grown on me. I remember that when I first saw one many years ago, the double cutaway design did not not particularly appeal to me. But over the years I started digging' this classic 60s design more and more and I when I finally played one a few years ago I was immediately floored. What a classic and mellow jazz sound. I was feeling the Barn!

The Gibson Barney Kessel was introduced in 1961. Jim Bastian, author of the Gibson Barney Kessel pages writes: 
The Gibson Barney Kessel "Regular" and "Custom" models were made in Kalamazoo, Michigan, between 1961 and 1972 (a few final samples were still shipped in 1973). Designed as a high-end artist-signature jazz instrument, the cost of the BK models in 1961 was 560.00 for the Custom and 395.00 for the less-ornate Regular. By 1966, the two models cost 675.00 and 525.00 respectively. In general, the BK design was characterized by a double florentine cutaway, and a large Super 400-size headstock. Its 17-inch lower bout was L-5-size although a bit thinner at 3 inches. 

In total, 740 BK Customs were made. Let's have a look at some specifications. The BK Custom has a flamed maple neck; solid Brazilian rosewood fingerboard; arched spruce top; arched tiger flame maple back and sides; bowtie mother of pearl fingerboard inlay and eighth-note peghead inlay; triple bound body, bound neck and soundholes. The gold hardware includes twin Gibson Patent Sticker humbucking pickups and electronics; beveled 5-ply pickguard; 3 way control switch, gold reflector cap knobs, Kluson Super 'waffleback' tuners, adjustable compensated Brazilian rosewood bridge, Barney Kessel engraved nameplate tailpiece.

Now let's have a look at the BK Regular. In total, 1117 were made. It has a crown inlay on the headstock , mahogany neck , unbound f-holes , parallelogram inlays on the fingerboard , Kluson tuners (unlike the BK Custom which had grover tuners) and nickel hardware

Both models were made in cherry sunburst finishes and were equipped with 2 humbuckers .



The "flashy" design of the model is unmistakably 1960s cool. The headstock inlay and the double cutaway reflect the "cartoon modern"style that was hip in the 1950s and 1960s. It's the modern art style that is featured in cartoons from that era and that you see on many classic jazz albums covers too. Many people are not aware of this but once you realize the source of the design it becomes so much more "classic."





Though the Kessel obviously is a signature model I am not sure to what extent Barney was really involved in designing this guitar. Some argue the model had been designed already and Barney was only asked to endorse it after that fact. Though a few photo's - and ads - exist in which he is holding one, he seemed to prefer playing his trusted ES 350 throughout his career. Maybe the unusual design was a bit too flashy for him in the end. Barney had a strained relationship with Gibson anyway, he has been known to tape off the Gibon logo on the headstock of his ES 350 on several occasions. He did own a few BK signature models though. I read somewhere that his sons sold these after his death.





The Barney Kessel was never re-issued by Gibson. Still, the vintage Kessels out there are clearly gaining recognition among jazz players and are moving up in price every year. They are not cheap anymore. But ... they are fine vintage instruments. Did you know that the BK was as expensive as a Byrdland in the 1960s and was actually more expensive than a Gibson Tal Farlow at the time? Quality wise the Barney Kessel has always been up there with some of the greatest archtops Gibson ever built.


How does it sound? Well, the sound of my BK Custom is warm and mellow, but with way more clarity than what I am used to in my other archtops. Also, the guitar is of a lighter build and much more responsive than my non vintage Gibsons. It has the mojo only a vintage guitar can have. It seems that the BK Regular, which have maple tops, are decidedly brighter sounding than the BK Customs, which have spruce tops. According to Jim Bastian, the BKs from 1961 to 1964 are the most collectible:

The most highly prized models (and most valuable) - it can be argued - are the 1961 to 1964 models which most often have a wide-flat neck profile, PAF pickups (or late PAF's with Patent Number stickers), laminated spruce tops, and the long neck heel.
Jim, who has the biggest collection of BKs in the world, prefers the mellow sounds of the early spruce BK Customs. Check out his BK pages here.

So what does it sound like? Unfortunately, most BK demo clips on Youtube feature rock players having a go at some faux jazz. So I asked some of my friends to do a clip and added a few myself for a better picture. Here's my 1963 BK Custom in action on Kenny Burrell's "Midnight Blue."



One of the first guitarists in my network to get a Barney Kessel is my good friend Jack Zucker. As most of you may know, Jack is a very fine player that has owned a great many classic Gibson models and it is striking that his 1963 Barney Kessel is his favourite guitar. He has actually just sold his L5 because he likes the Kessel better. Here's Jack playing "My One and Only Love" on his 1963 BK Regular:



And then there's my other Facebook friend Michael Aadal from Norway playing "The Days of Wine and Roses" on his 1961 BK Regular. He's barnin' it up!













Monday, May 16, 2016

An Ibanez prototype that never went into production





I came across this video that was recorded in 1979. It features Barney Kessel in a trio setting performing a set of standards. Barney is backed by Jim Richardson on bass an Tony Mann on drums. Barney is in excellent shape and is swinging hard. Interesting is the guitar he is playing. He is not using his trusted Gibson ES 350 but an Ibanez prototype. I found this info on the Belgian jazz guitar forum; 
"In the 70's/80's Ibanez were imported into the UK by a gentleman named Maurice Summerfield who also ran the Ashley Mark publishing co. Apparently he secured Joe Pass' Ibanez deal regarding his signature model. He also did the same for B.Kessel (a close friend of Mr Summerfield's). This went as far as a prototype being made which Barney used on a European tour."
It's my guess that the footage was recorded for Italian TV during the European tour mentioned in the quote above. Unlike the Ibanez Joe Pass, the Barney Kessel prototype never went into production though and was later sold by his son. Jim Bastian writes on his "Gibson Barney Kessel" pages: 

"In May 2011, Barney's own Ibanez signature prototype was advertised at auction on ebay. The guitar, which had no serial number and was made specifically for Barney by Ibanez, was sold by son Dan Kessel, in Beverly Hills, CA. The guitar, sold with a COA, was descibed as being "...owned and played professionally by the leg endary Barney Kessel." The guitar sold for a not-so-legendary price of 2357.00."

What is sure is that the guitar sounded just fine in the hands of Barney. Maybe a bit mellower even than his ES 350. And the music in this video is among the very best I have ever heard of Barney. What a player he was ...

Setlist video:

1. Autumn Leaves
2. Misty
3. Moose The Mooche
4. The Shadow Of Your Smile
5. I Can' t Get Started
6. You Are The Sunshine Of My Life
7. Stella By Starlight
8. St. Thomas
9. Basie's Blues
10. Wave
11. 18 Bar Blues

Friday, April 8, 2016

Just a Sittin' and a Rockin'






I remember learning this tune many years ago during one of my first jazz guitar lessons. I guess it's one of those Burrell tunes that are so cool that every guitarist wants to learn them. Just like "Midnight Blue" of which I posted the music and a backing track earlier here

Anyway, when I returned to "Just a Sittin" last week I listened to the original some more and changed some chords and fingerings. I think what I am playing in the video below is closer to the original than what I had under my fingers for years. Hopefully you can figure it out yourself. Such a nice melody to play solo too.





Thursday, February 25, 2016

Early Versus Late Wim

Wim in the 1960s
In an earlier post I have shown a few vintage clips featuring Wim Overgaauw in the Pim Jacobs trio/quartet that were recorded in the 1960s. Meanwhile two very interesting longer videos of Wim during concerts have appeared that reflect his development to a more modern approach very well.

The first 30 minute clip is from 1968. No doubt in my mind that Wim must have been one of the best European jazz guitarists in the 1960s. Love this video.  Bebop galore!




The next video dates from 1992. It was recorded for Dutch National Radio so the sound is pretty good. Wim did only few public appearances towards the end of his life and was mostly teaching at the Hilversum conservatory so concert footage from that time is rare. I was wondering about this particular concert so I contacted the piano player who posted the clip and asked about it. At the time the concert was a live recording for Radio 4 in the CNM studio. A few original tunes by Wim were played, as well three standards. It seems the second piece was named after Wim's cat.

Setlist:

1 Blow (Wim Overgaauw)
2 Kalistra Axavri (Wim Overgaauw)
3 In Your Own Sweet Way (Dave Brubeck)
4 Hard Bass (Wim Overgaauw)
5 Time (Wim Overgaauw)
6 Punch-in (Wim Overgaauw)
7 Peace (Horace Silver)
8 It could happen to you (Jimmy van Heusen)




Saturday, February 20, 2016

The Carvin HH2 Holdsworth

By Jack Zucker

I just picked up a Carvin HH2 Holdsworth, headless guitar. It's got a chambered walnut body, 5 pc walnut/maple neck, rosewood fingerboard. Chambered body. It's fairly heavy for a headless guitar. Approximately ~6.5lbs.


I got this because I am refactoring/morphing my playing style with studies from Tim Miller and Derryl Grabel into a more legato style and I wanted something with 24 frets and access to all 24 frets without being neck heavy. The headless design solves the problems of neck heavyness that accompanies most guitars with extreme upper fret access. I also specifically wanted something with a little bit brighter and more modern neck pickup sound because - despite many claims that 24 frets ruin the neck pickup - I actually like the modern sound that the 24 fret configuration gives to the neck pickup. It also makes for a nice middle pickup position sound.

I have gone through 5 different holdsworth guitars. I've had 1 of each type H2, HF2, H2T and then a couple of the headless (this is my 2nd). One issue I've found is that all of the Carvin Holdsworth guitars that are not headless are neck heavy and uncomfortable for me to play. Many of the Carvins that you see on the second hand market have ridiculously quilted tops and flamed necks and while this is gorgeous, it's not always the best fit tonally for what I'm looking for. Case in point, the previous HH2 I tried had a gorgeous 10 top and birdseye fingerboard and neck but was extremely bright and the neck moved a bit with humidity and weather changes. The 5 pc neck on the model I got is perfect and so far has not moved at all. The 5pc necks have a history of being extremely rigid which is why Gibson uses them on the L5.


Walnut is an interesting sounding wood. It's brighter than mahogany but not as bright as maple. And the rosewood fingerboard seems to tame down the high frequencies somewhat as well. I think the walnut is as beautiful as quilted maple but doesn't add the high end sheen of the maple.


The guitar gets a really beautiful Holdsworth sound, has a great clean jazz tone with a little bit of modern twist, great funk tone with both pickups on and gets some classic rock tones as well. Additionally, the guitar is very light and extremely well balanced. Its chambered body offers a bit of hollow quality to it which makes it sound decent for jazz though it's not the right axe for channeling Joe Pass or Wes Montgomery.


I normally practice standing up but the design of this guitar allows me to sit it on my lap in the same position as when I'm standing which is impossible to do on a standard body style such as a Gibson 175 or Les Paul.

 The guitar is not perfect. There are a few negative points

1. The body does not have a cutout for your thigh. Many of the headstock-less "ergo" guitars have a cutout near the bottom for your thigh. Since the HH2 does not have this, you end up resting the guitar's tuners against your leg when you play sitting. Note the bottom/rear leg cutout on this Strandberg guitar. Some feel this is ugly but it does put the guitar in classical position without your leg resting against the tuners (Figure 1).

 
Figure 1 Ergo Guitar with Leg cutout

2.      
The gear ratio of the tuners is too high in my opinion. I would like some finer adjustment because just the tiniest turn of the gear changes the pitch too drastically and it's sometimes difficult to fine tune it. I think this is a compromise because if they used a lower gear ratio, it would be too hard to initially tune the string to pitch but I'd rather deal with that.

3. I'm not crazy about the mini toggle switch for the pickup selector. I'd rather have a full size switch.

4. While the guitar is not neck heavy, the position of the strap buttons cause the guitar to tip forward when it’s being supported on the strap. This happens no matter which strap button you choose on the bottom of the guitar. I found that if I use the bottom strap button and then position my strap in front of the upper strap button it mitigates this issue somewhat. I made a more permanent solution by cutting a second strap hole in my strap positioned so that my strap now attaches to both buttons. The lower button does the actual holding of the guitar and the upper button’s attachment to the strap keep it from tipping forward.

To conclude, the Carvin Holdsworth is a ridiculously great and modern ergo-guitar at a ridiculously cheap price. The entry level price for the guitar is $1250 and that's what Allan Holdsworth uses. He doesn't play one with quilted top and upgraded woods. He plays the stock model. That would be my recommendation as well.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Steve Crowell's "Jazz Standards in Chord Melody Style" series




I have had Steve Crowell's "Jazz Standards in Chord Melody Style" volumes 1, 2 and 3 for ages. If you are a student and you are interested in playing chord melodies, this is a very accessible and attractive series in chord studies. The books have both chord diagrams and standard notation for every standard. Though I'm not sure playing prefab chord melodies necessarily qualifies as "jazz", Steve's books do provide an excellent series in chord studies so you can get your own thing going later. Though there are some (performance) notes for each tune, there is little to no theory involved. Tunes range form easy to intermediate.


In the video I am playing Ellington's "Prelude to a Kiss" fingerstyle using Steve's arrangement from volume 3. Here's some samples of the sheet music so you get an idea what the books look like. The samples are incomplete for copyright reasons.

For ordering a book in this series click here. Below I added an overview of the standards in each book.




Steven Crowell - Jazz Standards In Chord Melody Style - Vol 1 - Book and CD
Each volume contains 9 chord melody solos loaded with numerous compositional devices! Includes: "Bluesette, Here's That Rainy Day, Cute, Girl Talk, Misty, Satin Doll, Moonlight In Vermont, Moonlight Serenade, Have You Met Miss Jones".

Steven Crowell - Jazz Standards In Chord Melody Style - Vol 2 - Book and CD
Each volume contains 9 chord melody solos loaded with numerous compositional devices! Includes: "On Green Dolphin Street, The Girl From Ipanema, How High The Moon, One Note Samba, Look For The Silver Lining, The Shadow Of Your Smile, Polka Dots And Moonbeams, Wave, Witchcraft".

Steven Crowell - Jazz Standards In Chord Melody Style - Vol 3 - Book and CD
Each volume contains 9 chord melody solos loaded with numerous compositional devices! Includes: "Autumn Leaves, Meditation, Once In A While, You Are The Sunshine Of My Life (Stevie Wonder), Sophisticated Lady, A Prelude To A Kiss, Lil' Darlin', How Deep Is Your Love (The Bee Gees), We're All Alone (Anne Murray)".

Steven Crowell - Jazz Standards In Chord Melody Style - Vol 4 - Book and CD
Each volume contains 9 chord melody solos loaded with numerous compositional devices! Includes: "Sweet And Lovely, The Way You Look Tonight, Don't Get Around Much Anymore, Dancing On The Ceiling, Too Marvelous For Words, Ain't Misbehavin', Delta Blues, Ferris Wheel Rag, Fly Me To The Moon".


Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Jesse van Ruller's Solo on "The Best Things in Life are Free."


Jesse's album "Here and There" (Criss Cross 2002) has alweays been a personal favourite of mine. He recorded it in 2001, just a few weeks after we jammed at The Crow. (check out Jesse's "Complete Solos at the Crow" here). I remember him telling me he was about to leave for New York to do a recording with David Hazeltine and a few other New York jazz cats. The result was a wonderful album which Criss Cross describes as follows:

"Joined by an assortment of New York's finest, 29-year-old star guitarist Jesse Van Ruller, Holland's first Thelonious Monk Competition Award-winner, emphatically stamps his voice on a meaty program of jazz originals, less-traveled songbook gems, and an original blues. On piano the great David Hazeltine, with bassists Nat Reeves or Frans Van Geest, and Joe Farnsworth or Willie Jones III on drums."
The album starts off with a wonderful rendition of "The Best Things in Life are Free." What a great tune. A week ago I found a trancription of his solo on this tune by Mikko Hilden. I have included the sheet music below.









Saturday, January 23, 2016

The Visual Real Book


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Click here to go to the Visual Real Book 

These days there's many backing tracks and play-alongs on Youtube. Earlier I posted a few of my favourite channels for play-alongs with static sheet music here. But a few days ago I came across a more recent one called the Visual Real Book that displays the chord movement in real time. There's no notation for the melodies, only the chords are visible. Obviously the tracks are all created in PG music's Band-in-a-Box using the "RealTracks" (full recordings of real instruments, lasting from 1 to 8 bars at a time, playing in sync with the other MIDI tracks) and the screen is then captured in real time on video. The effect is pretty much like the iRealbook that I have on my iPad. Only the sound of the Visual Real book is way better. So if you want to practise in front of your laptop, this channel really comes in handy. It seems that there are about 160 free backing tracks for jazz musicians now and new ones are added regularly. They even have their own Facebook page on which they post their latest uploads.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

The Aria PE 175 Herb Ellis



By Jack Zucker

The Aria PE 175 (Herb Ellis) was made during the '70s and '80s and '90s. The '70s and '80s versions where made in the highly regarded Matsumoko factory in Japan which made the Greco, Tokai and other copies of gibsons which many folks preferred to the originals. Later, these guitars were reissued and made in South Korea and were not very good so make sure you are buying a japanese model if you decide to venture into these waters. Sometime in the early '80s, Herb Ellis signed a contract with Aria and the guitar officially became his namesake model instrument and has his name inlaid on the fingerboard and initials on the pickguard.

The original model was roughly based on the Gibson 175 with a mahogany neck, though it had an ebony fingerboard, 16" maple plywood body and L5 style tailpiece. The ebony used for the fingerboard is of a very high quality, easily equal to what Gibson was using during this time period. Like many japanese guitars, the neck is a bit on the slim side but I find it very comfortable and easy to play all the way up the neck. Frets are approximately like Dunlop 6105s which are considered slightly smaller than jumbo. It's got a metal tuneamatic tailpiece and dual humbuckers which are VERY good. At some point, sound posts were installed in these guitars under the bridge. Mine (1983) does not have a post from what I can tell. (I have not inspected it with the pickups out and a mirror). It may be that the earlier versions did not have this feature. One other example I have played did have the sound posts.

The neck angle is very good on these guitars, allowing very low action and in that regard it's like Ibanez, in that it's got somewhat of a "hot rod" guitar feel. It's effortless to play fast on.

In terms of tone, the guitar is 175esque in quality but it's got a bit more velvety top end and not quite as much acoustic resonance.
The amplified tone is extremely even and somewhat compressed, but in a good way. Because of this  compression the guitar is very suitable for playing fast Bensony lines. And with the velvety top end, it's very rewarding to play octaves or block chords a la Wes Montgomery, more than would be the case with a Gibson 175. Even without the soundposts, it's slightly less prone to feedback.

I'm not sure how many of these were made but they seem to be somewhat rare. You typically see them selling for around $800-$1000 on ebay. Everyone I have played has had a flawless setup and like Ibanez, they seem to be made so well that it's rare to find one that has any issues with the neck or playability.

This guitar is easily as good as any of my top guitars and in fact, I prefer it to many of the solid top boutique guitars I have owned. It's got a more even tone, very mellow and has the warmth of the '60s jazz guitar records by Tal Farlow, Joe Pass, etc.



Saturday, January 9, 2016

Vintage Wim Overgaauw

Wim Overgaauw 1960
I have written about Wim Overgaauw earlier here when I first posted the video below. It features Wim playing in the Pim Jacobs Trio in 1960. There is very little doubt Wim has been the single most important figure in the development of jazz guitar in the Netherlands. Although he died in 1995, his heritage is still strongly felt in the presence of his former students Jesse van Ruller and Martijn van Iterson.



But, as the clips show, Wim was not always a teacher. Before he embarked on a career in teaching he had been playing for over two decades, his career starting somewhere in the 1950s. However, it was in the 1960s that he rose to prominence as guitarist in the Pim Jacobs trio. A trio that later toured Europe with jazz singer Rita Reijs. Here's a clip from the trio backing Rita. The year is 1960 too. Wim takes a great solo.



It's good to see more and more vintage Wim Overgaauw showing up on Youtube. I don't think Wim was that happy with his recorded output at the end of his life but these clips show him in great shape and really deserve to be heard.

Throughout the 1960s pianist Pim Jacobs hosted several jazz shows on Dutch radio and tv featuring guest musicians and Wim got to play with several American jazz greats in those days. Some performances of the Pim Jacobs trio or quartet with guest stars were taped and it is great to see that some of these recordings have survived and have been published by bass player Ruud Jacobs on his website. (By the way, the classic video of Wes Montgomery in Holland (1965) shows the same Pim Jacob trio backing Wes, now with a drummer replacing Wim.)

Here's a lengthy live clip  of "Night in Tunisia" with Johnny Griffin on sax and Kenny Drew on piano from 1963. Wim takes a solo at 12.20 in the clip.




The clip below is the Pim Jacobs quartet featuring Cannonball Adderley. It was recorded for Dutch Radio in 1965. It is truly a gem, featuring Wim in full flight. It clearly demonstrates that Wim was a fully developed jazz guitarist at the time. A European top guitarist, on a par with the much better known Rene Thomas.



I\d  like to end the series with two clips from a 1990 recording that he did with the Pim Jacobs trio backing saxophone player Ruud Brink. Note the marvellous swing comping by Wim. Wim's solo must have been overdubbed. I always liked the easy swing of this album that can be found on Youtube in its entirety. Not really vintage Wim, but very enjoyable nonetheless.



From the same 1990 session we find "East of the Sun" with a very relaxed and lyrical solo fom the Dutch jazz guitar master.